Business challenge

With use-cases for geospatial data multiplying, how could Ordnance Survey cost-effectively gear up for increased demand to continue to deliver exceptional value for the nation?


Ordnance Survey deployed new IBM Storage solutions, enabling it to store and manage more data than ever before, helping power new initiatives from augmented reality to smart cities.


40 TB

freed up by IBM Spectrum Control on day one, boosting capacity with zero storage investment

Rapid, dependable

provision of data supports essential services and drives innovation


development of an accurate-to-the-centimeter 3D digital model of Britain

Business challenge story

Exploring the possibilities

Countless services require an accurate picture of the natural and man-made landscape and how it changes over time, making geospatial data an essential component of modern life. Ordnance Survey, Great Britain’s national mapping agency, has been a key player in the expanding use of this data. The organization has evolved from a producer of paper maps to the big-data powerhouse behind a huge range of digital services incorporating location information. From planning a route to ordering a pizza, and from calling an ambulance to applying for planning permission, data from Ordnance Survey underpins a vast and highly diverse range of activities and industries.

Simon Navin, Senior Innovation expert at Ordnance Survey, explains: “Ordnance Survey data and mapping touches almost every aspect of our daily lives. For example, all emergency services rely on us to get resources to precisely where they’re needed. No mapping need is too big or too small: we have teams on standby to respond to requests from the government’s COBR team, while hikers depend on us to guide them on their adventures.”

To achieve these goals, Ordnance Survey maintains half a billion separate geographical points and details, making up its Master Map. On average, it makes 20,000 changes to the map every day, and continues to increase both precision and accuracy. The emergence of new requirements for geospatial data is an opportunity for Ordnance Survey, but also represents a challenge when it comes to the organization’s IT infrastructure.

“The next big revolution is bringing together the physical and virtual worlds,” explains Simon Navin. “Technologies as diverse as self-driving cars, 5G comms, augmented reality and smart cities need incredibly detailed and precise mapping. We need to ensure fast, reliable access to data for our network of partners, customers and developers, and prepare for the demands of the future.”

Dave Anderson-Ward, Server & Storage Technical Team Lead at Ordnance Survey, adds: “Our previous approach to storage was based around buying more capacity than we needed and filling it up gradually, meaning resources were sitting there unused much of the time. As a government-owned company, it’s vital that we deliver the best value we can for public funding, so we searched for a more cost-efficient way to manage our current and future storage needs.”

With IBM Storage behind us, we’re confident that we can support the UK’s growing digital economy while continuing to deliver exceptional value for money to the taxpayer.

Simon Navin, Senior Innovation Expert, Ordnance Survey

Transformation story

Meeting a wide range of needs

For 15 years, Ordnance Survey has relied on IBM Storage solutions to meet its evolving big data requirements. Today, the organization has nine clustered IBM Storwize® V7000 hybrid storage systems, featuring IBM Spectrum Virtualize™ software and a combination of solid-state and SATA drives.

“Storwize V7000 devices give us enterprise resilience and performance at mid-range cost, so we can serve our customers rapidly, reliably and efficiently,” explains Dave Anderson-Ward. “As a hybrid solution, Storwize gives us high-performance drives for frequently accessed data, and lower-cost alternatives for general storage. IBM Spectrum Virtualize with Easy Tier automatically moves data up and down the tiers to optimize our price-performance.”

By deploying IBM Spectrum Virtualize, Ordnance Survey gained much greater insight into and control of storage resources – capabilities that proved invaluable when the organization moved data centers.

“Taking a software-defined approach with Spectrum Virtualize gives us incredible flexibility and has helped us complete two major data center migrations with no issues,” says Dave Anderson-Ward. “It allows us to accommodate growing data in a smarter way; rather than throwing capacity at problems, we can use our existing systems much more effectively.”

Ordnance Survey further increased visibility of capacity and performance across its virtualized storage environment when it implemented IBM Spectrum Control™, a storage monitoring, automation and analytics tool. A team from IBM Systems Lab Services deployed the solution and provided storage tiering consultancy.

Dave Anderson-Ward adds: “With Spectrum Control, we can manage our entire storage landscape from a single console, highlighting opportunities for optimization and simplifying troubleshooting. By making it easier to locate and move data between environments, it also prepares us for a move to the cloud, if we decide to go down that route in the future.”

The day that we added Spectrum Control to our landscape, it found over 40 TB of unused space that we could reclaim, representing a huge cost saving and giving us room for growth.

Dave Anderson-Ward, Server & Storage Technical Team Lead, Ordnance Survey

Results story

Journeying to a new digital age

By enhancing resource utilization with IBM solutions, Ordnance Survey has ensured it can meet new demands while at the same time finding new efficiencies.

“Using Spectrum Storage solutions, we’ve been able to keep raw storage capacity to 2.5 PB for the past few years while continuing to accommodate more data,” remarks Dave Anderson-Ward. “The day that we added Spectrum Control to our landscape, it found over 40 TB of unused space that we could reclaim, representing a huge cost saving and giving us room for growth.”

The IBM solutions provide the availability, reliability and performance that Ordnance Survey needs to serve the many organizations that rely on fast access to geospatial data, at all times of the day.

“Take emergency services as an example – we need to get them not just to the right street, but the right door, which means responding quickly and accurately,” says Simon Navin. “When roads flood or trees come down, we provide emergency maps to reroute essential services. All of this relies on data reliably stored and rapidly delivered by IBM Storage.”

Ordnance Survey is putting the groundwork in place to fulfill its vision: continuing to be the place to go for location data, in a world where this data plays a much larger role. With meticulous detail in its DNA, Ordnance Survey is working with industry partners to build a digital version of Britain in 3D, using point-cloud technology that’s accurate to the centimeter, supported by IBM Storage solutions.

“Imagine an app that can guide you to the right shelf in a shop, or a system that can help a partially-sighted person avoid obstacles on the pavement,” explains Simon Navin. “To support the cities of the future, we’ll need the ability to store, update and seamlessly access vastly more data than we do today, with complete reliability and at high speed.

“With IBM Storage behind us, we’re confident that we can support the UK’s growing digital economy while continuing to deliver exceptional value for money to the taxpayer, helping to establish the nation’s position at the leading edge.”

Ordnance Survey logo

Ordnance Survey

Ordnance Survey (OS) is the national mapping agency for Great Britain, and a world-leading geospatial data and technology organization. As a reliable partner to government, business and citizens across Britain and the world, OS helps its customers in virtually all sectors improve quality of life. OS expertise and data supports efficient public services and infrastructure, new technologies in transport and communications, national security and emergency services and exploring the great outdoors. By being at the forefront of geospatial capability for more than 225 years, OS has built a reputation as the world’s most inspiring and trusted geospatial partner.

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